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Life after the job: ?I know I?m one of the lucky few?

Like many officers after 30 years? service, Andy Labrum was struggling to figure out how to translate his skills and experience to a new role. In the first of a new regular column he explains how he got there and what inspired him to help other officers in a similar position
Published - 08/07/2021 By - Andy Labrum

I actually had a great career and some amazing roles and consider myself to be incredibly lucky. That said, I did have some really low points, saw and dealt with incidents that haunt me even now, and on a number of occasions, I questioned what I was doing, and why, and asked myself if it was going to be this way for the rest of my service.

There was one particular life changing incident that came out of nowhere and made me question everything.

I’d been on response, Crime Squad and then the Territorial Support Group, totally committed to the job. I was married with a young family, working really long hours, grabbing rest days and overtime just to make ends meet. Like all of us, I missed birthdays, Christmases, public holidays and regularly ended up sleeping on the gym floor at the base, because of overtime or having chosen to go out for a few beers with my work mates over going home. 

All of this culminated in the inevitable breakdown of my marriage and a divorce. It was amicable and we got on ok and despite everything, we were very sensitive about ensuring we were joined up with regards to my young daughter.

I’d transferred Forces to be closer to her and it was when I was a dog handler that my ex-wife told me that she and her new husband had been offered jobs and the opportunity of a new life in Sydney, Australia, and they wanted to take my 12-year-old daughter with them. I was working shifts, renting a home, flitting from relationship to relationship, and my job and my daughter were the only stable things in my life.

I knew I was a good Dad, and I fought the move, but after a really challenging conversation with my solicitor, I had to sign the papers to let her go and my heart broke.

As soon as I knew she was leaving, I started looking for ways I could join her in Australia, looking for roles or new skills I could learn (plumbing, teaching, anything), that might give me the ability to migrate.

No Aussie Forces were recruiting and there was nothing I could do quickly.

I plodded on for a few months in absolute tatters, with phone calls, plus the occasional internet call via MSN and webcam to keep me going. But I felt completely lost, and I stayed put and work and the gym became my crutch.

I like to think I did pretty well at work, winning several awards, gaining promotion, and driving my team’s performance in different departments and then, 9 years after my divorce, I married Claire (having said I’d never get married again), and we had two children. But at work, I was sick of being told where to be, when, what to do, still missing birthdays and Christmases and completely caught in the pension trap.

There was always something in me wanting to do something different, find a new career, a new life and see how far I could go. On top of that, I didn’t want to lose another family due to my work - I’d learned my lesson.

Well into my 40’s and whilst Sergeant on the Firearms Team and still working earlies, lates and nights, with a young family, my wife working part time, money was tight, and the shift work was literally killing me. My GP told me that I needed to change jobs or at least find a day shift role, and I ended up with 4 years to go, as Head of Public Order and Officer Safety Training. It was a day job at last and what a difference it made, and I worked with some brilliant people.

Two years later, my role became regional, and I didn’t want what felt like a hospital pass of a new role, so I applied to see my time out as a Custody Sergeant.

Then my hair literally started to fall out in lumps for the first time in my life and I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata, which is basically random bald patches of different sizes on your head. I was devastated and my confidence took a battering.

Purely by chance, two great bosses decided they needed someone to undertake some pretty significant project work for the Specialist Operations Department. That morphed into a Pr

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